A typical tough-class story is enlivened with dinosaurs but marred by stereotypes and missing information.

ARLO, MRS. OGG, AND THE DINOSAUR ZOO

From the Class X series , Vol. 1

The students of class 4X have a reputation for being rowdy and unteachable—hence their nickname, class X—but maybe their newest sub has just the grit they need.

When 4X drives yet another teacher away with their antics, Mrs. Ogg is sent in to teach this difficult class. Mrs. Ogg isn’t like other teachers 4X has met—her guttural, monosyllabic way of communicating and her fur and bone outfits make the parents and students wonder where she came from. With the end-of-the-year party on the line, the 4X crew have just one more chance to prove that they can stay out of trouble, during a field trip to the zoo. It’s quickly revealed that this is not a typical zoo visit, however, when the class encounters prehistoric creatures! Class statistics, dinosaur facts, and cute illustrations are sprinkled into the text in the form of excerpts from Arlo’s meticulously kept notebook. There are no sources cited for the dinosaur trivia in the book, which may leave readers wondering about the information and where they can learn more. The students and other characters are described and drawn with a wide range of skin tones, from light pink to dark brown, and they also include a student who is learning English and a student who is largely nonverbal. Protagonist Arlo is white and has a stutter. Troublingly, the two black students in the book are described in stereotypical ways.

A typical tough-class story is enlivened with dinosaurs but marred by stereotypes and missing information. (author interview) (Fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-84886-468-9

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Maverick Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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A dramatic, educational, authentic whale of a tale.

A WHALE OF THE WILD

After a tsunami devastates their habitat in the Salish Sea, a young orca and her brother embark on a remarkable adventure.

Vega’s matriarchal family expects her to become a hunter and wayfinder, with her younger brother, Deneb, protecting and supporting her. Invited to guide her family to their Gathering Place to hunt salmon, Vega’s underwater miscalculations endanger them all, and an embarrassed Vega questions whether she should be a wayfinder. When the baby sister she hoped would become her life companion is stillborn, a distraught Vega carries the baby away to a special resting place, shocking her grieving family. Dispatched to find his missing sister, Deneb locates Vega in the midst of a terrible tsunami. To escape the waters polluted by shattered boats, Vega leads Deneb into unfamiliar open sea. Alone and hungry, the young siblings encounter a spectacular giant whale and travel briefly with shark-hunting orcas. Trusting her instincts and gaining emotional strength from contemplating the vastness of the sky, Vega knows she must lead her brother home and help save her surviving family. In alternating first-person voices, Vega and Deneb tell their harrowing story, engaging young readers while educating them about the marine ecosystem. Realistic black-and-white illustrations enhance the maritime setting.

A dramatic, educational, authentic whale of a tale. (maps, wildlife facts, tribes of the Salish Sea watershed, environmental and geographical information, how to help orcas, author’s note, artist’s note, resources) (Animal fiction. 8-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-299592-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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A nifty high-seas caper for chapter-book readers with a love of adventure and a yearning for treasure.

THE PIRATE PIG

It’s not truffles but doubloons that tickle this porcine wayfarer’s fancy.

Funke and Meyer make another foray into chapter-book fare after Emma and the Blue Genie (2014). Here, mariner Stout Sam and deckhand Pip eke out a comfortable existence on Butterfly Island ferrying cargo to and fro. Life is good, but it takes an unexpected turn when a barrel washes ashore containing a pig with a skull-and-crossbones pendant around her neck. It soon becomes clear that this little piggy, dubbed Julie, has the ability to sniff out treasure—lots of it—in the sea. The duo is pleased with her skills, but pride goeth before the hog. Stout Sam hands out some baubles to the local children, and his largess attracts the unwanted attention of Barracuda Bill and his nasty minions. Now they’ve pignapped Julie, and it’s up to the intrepid sailors to save the porker and their own bacon. The succinct word count meets the needs of kids looking for early adventure fare. The tale is slight, bouncy, and amusing, though Julie is never the piratical buccaneer the book’s cover seems to suggest. Meanwhile, Meyer’s cheery watercolors are as comfortable diagramming the different parts of a pirate vessel as they are rendering the dread pirate captain himself.

A nifty high-seas caper for chapter-book readers with a love of adventure and a yearning for treasure. (Adventure. 7-9)

Pub Date: June 23, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-37544-3

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2015

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